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Housing projects, dirty money

Ben Contreras .

TED Failon’s housing exposé was not an isolated case. Neither was it a new discovery. It is happening everywhere in the country. That makes us wonder what our Commission on Audit is really doing.

COA has been called “Commission or Audit,” although jokingly. There must also be substance in the joke. For example, during the time of Erap, somebody called me from Manila if I know the governor of Misamis Oriental. I said, “Yes, what about it?” Then he said, “I know somebody from COA who could fix his problem for P25 million.”

Housing projects in the Philippines intended for the poor (kuno) are a good source of dirty money. From the purchase of the land site to the bidding (fixed or not) process, dirty money flows from one hand to another, from one office to another, and what do you get? It’s either people who are supposed to live in the housing projects find it inhabitable due to its proximity or lack of facilities that would make it acceptable as a new community. So, what happens next? They live the place, rented them out or sell. And what about the quality of the housing units! Well, there won’t be any exposé  if the quality is at par.

Somewhere up there in Upper Puerto or is it Mambatangan(?), there is a housing project there that is not being used to the fullest or even hardly used. There are so much stories about it that one could only sigh how our government agencies that are involved in the well-being of the people there fail their expectations.

Government projects that are not bid out transparently. At times, there’s even the absence of any bidding. Take for instance projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways — when huge projects are pre-awarded to favorite contractors that also pre-award the fat commissions to regional directors and other high-ranking officers, we cannot expect 100-percent good quality.

The winners could have their hands full, too full that they have to subcontract some to smaller firms that also sub-contract them to smaller players.

Look around you, we have so many road works that are left undone if not, stagnant. Doing many things at the same time aggravates an already problematic traffic situation in the city.

On Friday, I had to rush to the pier to pick up my wife and daughter who just arrived from Cebu. The long line of huge containers toting trucks made the traffic flow like snail. Macabalan road was littered with unfinished road works (or are they abandoned projects?). The traffic flow was at its worst and I was made to follow the rerouting scheme that was gone in minutes when I was coming out of the area. Whew, what planning they made!

Going back to anomalous housing project, I wonder how it is now in Tacloban City where thousands perished and millions of properties lost and destroyed. Those who cheated the people of Tacloban or the Yolanda victims should be hanged in public. If none of them are brought to justice, then anomalies will continue and good government money wasted.

The unaffected will continue to keep silent and their silence is the fertilizer that fattens and helps the growth of corruption. I can only hope that when they become victims, there would be others to share their grief and frustrations.

Oh, I seem to have missed out on projects in the city. Anyway, there is this rumor that Ombudsman will come out with their convictions on anomalous and overpriced school buildings. If true, I won’t be surprised.

Again, evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Are you one of them?

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About Ben Contreras

Ben Contreras has been writing a column for The Gold Star Daily since the 90s.

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